As directed by the Greene County Legislature, Chairman Patrick Linger and Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to immediately take aggressive actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 within the Greene Correctional Facility.
The outbreak at Greene Correctional Facility includes some 100 inmates and 26 employees who have tested positive in the last two weeks, with results for multiple tests still pending.
The Greene County Legislature is urging DOCCS and Governor Cuomo to take immediate action to protect the health of those living and working in the surrounding region.
There are 52 detention facilities with staff of over 31,000 in the DOCCS system, and as of this morning, their official COVID 19 Report cites confirmed cases in 1,415 staff, 977 inmates, and 103 parolees. Confirmed deaths total 5 staff, 18 inmates, and 4 parolees.
“The recent spike in cases due to the lack of testing performed by DOCCS on its employees residing across the region has put increased stress on our Public Health system, our communities, and our economy – so far resulting in the closure of the Greenville Elementary School, and delaying the scaled-back reopening of movie theaters and performance venues”, said Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden.
Groden and Greene County Legislature Chair Patrick Linger went on to elaborate: “We’re simply asking for better communications and transparency from the state. Our offers to help seem to have fallen on deaf ears.”
Specifically, Greene County is calling for immediate action on the following items:
- Provide Greene County Public Health officials with the same level of access to DOCCS COVID information normally provided by long-term care facilities, other positive cases within the county, and college dormitories to conduct full contact tracing of employees testing positive.
- Ensure that any inmate released from NYS prisons in Greene County has tested negative for coronavirus before re-entering the community, no inmate is released without tests, and Correctional Facility Staff be tested by the DOCCS.
- DOCCS needs to understand the risk of COVID when inmates are released, and employees leave their jobs at the prison and go home to their respective communities. Anyone who has been exposed needs to quarantine. Sadly, inmates have been released, and GC Public Health was not notified – this outbreak could have been prevented.
- NYS needs to identify Greene Correctional Facility as a ‘Hot-Spot’ and DOCCS must do appropriate testing of their own, to protect both inmates and employees. DOCCS has their own medical staff and staff testing should be done under their jurisdiction. These tests should be expedited with a quick turnaround time.
Other lawmakers and government officials have also called on the Governor and DOCCS to act. Assemblyman Chris Tague, whose 102nd District includes Greene County issued the following in his October 16th Press Release:
“With the alarming increase in coronavirus cases in New York State, the situation at both the Greene and Elmira Correctional Facilities is of great concern. These outbreaks come at a time when our communities have just begun recovering from the complications associated with the first wave of COVID-19. It is essential that we contain the virus and ensure it does not escape these prisons and infect and spread in our local communities. Not only is the health and safety of inmates in immediate danger, but it also puts our correction officers, facility employees, their loved ones, and the surrounding area at risk. DOCCS must immediately suspend inmate transportation and visitation and make sure anyone leaving these facilities has tested negative for COVID-19. This can only be accomplished by DOCCS and Governor Cuomo drastically increasing the staffing and testing resources available to these facilities. Many of these policies should have already been in place to prevent these outbreaks from happening in the first place and, in fact, have been meticulously enforced throughout the State’s nursing homes in recent months. The Governor and his administration need to take immediate action before our correctional facilities suffer the same tragedy as our nursing homes did at the beginning of the pandemic.”.
Greene County Public Health has already conducted one testing pod on-site at the prison for employees, and it is unclear if testing there will continue. Additionally, another testing pod was set up in Greenville for testing school staff, students and parents, because of possible exposure to infected residents working at Greene Correctional Facility.
“Our Public Health team is working 7 days a week,” notes Linger, “and while they are doing an outstanding job protecting our residents, it is a small department with limited resources which cannot be sustained if they are forced to do the testing that the state is ultimately responsible for.”
“This avoidable outbreak is effecting our local business communities, causing closures and delaying openings” Linger continues, “ Our business owners and residents have complied with all the re-opening guidance and regulations issued by the state – it’s tough to explain to them that the same rules don’t apply to the DOCCS operating facilities in our county.”
Patrick Linger represents the Town of New Baltimore and chairs the Greene County Legislature.
Shaun Groden is the County Administrator, and chairs the Greene County Police Policy Review Committee.
Assemblyman Chris Tague represents the 102nd Assembly District, which includes Greene and Schoharie counties, and parts of Albany, Columbia, Otsego, Delaware and Ulster counties.